We have lots of free handouts on topics like cooperation, self-regulation, and healthy habits. Check them out here. (Click on the title to get to the link).
We have lots of free handouts on topics like cooperation, self-regulation, and healthy habits. Check them out here. (Click on the title to get to the link).
February 17 is Random Act of Kindness Day. We see long lists of ideas for being kind and spreading acts of kindness. The ideas are wonderful and we think, “I could do that one, and that one, and maybe that one.” But do we? The reality is that sometimes we get bogged down by the demands of everyday life – and there is a lot going on!
So what can we do to combat the day-to-day drag-down and promote positive energy and kindness? Let’s start small, just with ourselves. Here are a few concrete, simple acts that we can each do, every day, right now.
And let’s keep it up beyond the day! When we are aware of how we interact with those around us, we can start a kindness revolution, an upward spiral of goodwill. Plus, we are modeling the kind of behavior we want our children to see and copy. So try to smile, listen, and connect. You will feel as good as the people you do it to!
Life is BUSY for Today’s Parents
“I have to work late this week.”
“How many games do the kids have Saturday?”
“What time is the birthday party?”
“What?? It’s December?!”
Life is busy – regular everyday life. And this time of year gets even busier. The holidays can be wonderful – full of family gatherings, special traditions, and delicious food. But it can also mean having too much to do and feeling very stressed! How can we navigate this hectic time and find the balance we need for ourselves and our families?
Family Time Can Be Simple, No-cost, and Beneficial
One of the most important things a family can do is to make time to be together. Time when everyone is unplugged and present. Time when the focus is on conversation. Time to re-connect. This is an excellent stress reliever and helps family members feel close to one another. But how do we find that time?
Here are a few ideas to carve out some family time with little or no fuss or prep:
Plan now to make family time a priority. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, or costly, or take a lot of time. It does need to be intentional and involve talking and listening. Everyone will feel more connected and better prepared to take on what life brings next.
The end of summer brings lots of changes. The weather gets cooler. The days get shorter. The leaves start to change color. Children start school. Or child care. Or have new teachers and classrooms. A lot of change.
While starting something new can be exciting and eagerly anticipated, it can also be scary for a child. Will my teacher like me? What are the rules? Will I know anybody? Where is the bathroom?
And it’s not just the child having all the worries! Parents have them, too. How did my child grow up so fast? What if he doesn’t like it? Will he have friends? How will I manage the school routine, soccer practice, my job, and everything else going on?
It helps us all to know what to expect when change is looming large. We need to be prepared for the ups and downs, the highs and lows. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
So how do we weather the stormy or even the sunny transitions?
Sometimes in preparation for a transition like the start of a new school year, we focus all of our attention and energy on our child. If we are going to be supportive, we need to be aware of how WE are feeling, too. Young children are intuitive, and can pick up on adult worries and concerns. Whether you find comfort in talking with a friend, taking a walk, or just carving out a little ‘me’ time, try to take care of yourself, too. When we care for ourselves, we are often better emotionally equipped to have empathy for others.
Learn and practice steps designed to help you calm down when you feel yourself getting impatient or upset or even overly excited. Not only does this help you calm down, but you are modeling the use of a very helpful tool for your child. Teach it to them, too.
Stay in touch with your child’s teacher. It can help to know how things are going from that perspective.
In the immediacy of everyday life with young children, finding ways to take care of yourself, will help you be a calm, loving presence with your child.
Starting anything new is challenging. Taking time to plan ahead and be prepared can result in a more confident, relaxed child who is ready to take on the world!
The 6th Annual Healthy Al, Healthy Me Day was a great mix of moving, reading, experimenting, and learning! Early childhood programs around the country and in Bermuda danced, ran, tried new foods, read books, and played games.
In DeWitt Michigan, at Capital Area Community Services Head Start, Jessie Nevius sent this report: “Our kids enjoyed celebrating being healthy with Al! We read the story Al’s Healthy Choices and did Al’s Action Story. We used the book to have a discussion about healthy foods and healthy activities. We worked hard to complete Al’s healthy food maze.”
The students at Lyceum Preschool in Bermuda enjoyed an interactive read-aloud by Mrs. Shavana Wilson. After doing about twenty minutes of exercise, students were given a healthy snack of fresh fruit kabobs and peanut butter and jelly rice cakes. Mrs. Kimwana Eve also presented all the students with their own Al’s Pals t-shirts and water bottles.
Debbie Miller’s class at Maymont School in Richmond Virginia read Al’s Healthy Choices and talked about their favorite healthy food and how they stay active. Then they had a tasting party with cauliflower, snap peas, mango, red pepper, cara cara orange, and starfruit. Most were a big hit, but the starfruit was not very popular! Everyone was adventurous and willing to try new foods.
In Arkansas, at the North Little Rock School District, Whitney Addie’s class celebrated Healthy Al, Healthy Me all week and tried different fruits and vegetables. The overall favorite was strawberries. After talking about how they grew and what they looked and tasted like, the children did a still-life drawing. Each child was excited about trying so many different fruits and veggies.
Angelette Pryor at Shady Grove Y in Richmond Virginia reports that Al was as popular as ever during the YMCA Healthy Kids Day. At the Al’s Pals station kids made Al hats. This station is a calm spot among the busy, noisy stations. Several kids came to the calm down spot which had big pillows on a small rug with the Calm Down and Problem-solving posters there. They had current Al’s Pals kids stop by as well as those who remembered Al from previous years.
The Grasshopper Class at St. James Child Development Center in Richmond Virginia did yoga poses and danced. The celebration fit right in with their focus for the month of April: exercise!
Ruby Allen’s STEPS Head Start class in Charlotte Courthouse Virginia joined the celebration by having the children choose their favorite fruits and decorating them. The teachers used the fruits from the dramatic play center to continue the discussion of their favorites. They all enjoyed the celebration and had such fun – they can’t wait until next year!
At Michelle’s Playland in Suffolk Virginia, they started their day with a discussion on the importance of healthy habits and taking care of their bodies. They exercised and danced to “Shakin’ It” by Paragraph Express. They read Al’s Healthy Choices – a couple of times! Their healthy morning snack was apples, cheese and crackers, and water. They were talking about butterflies that week, so their physical activity was moving like butterflies. That afternoon, their outdoor activity was to run races.
So it was another great Healthy Al, Healthy Me Day! And remember that all the resources for these and other activities are always available here.
It’s almost time to go out the door and head off to school. The last time you checked, your four-year-old was taking off her pj’s and was on the verge of getting dressed. Ah, you think to yourself, “It will be a good day.” Now, five minutes later, not only is she still in her pj’s, but she has slipped her sweater on, backwards, over the pj’s. You gently remind her that it is time to get dressed to get ready for school and help her take off the tangled sweater. Instead of getting dressed, she starts to play with a puzzle. Exasperated, and concerned about the time, you pull off her pajamas and put her clothes on, even though she has successfully dressed herself many times before. You sigh. So much for the day starting off smoothly.
Most of us have struggled, at some point, with trying to persuade a preschooler to get ready or finish eating on time. And it is so easy to become annoyed when they don’t comply. We try to stay calm but the more she does her own thing and acts “contrary”, the more we find ourselves feeling frustrated, anxious, and even angry. And on top of that, we start feeling stressed about being late. The more we try to “force” the child, the more resistant she may become and the situation can easily escalate.
Sometimes a shift in our approach can be helpful. As adults we often find ourselves telling young children what to do and how to do it. When they don’t comply, we often blame the child for “not listening.” This can quickly become a power struggle and ultimately no one really “wins.” Rather than telling young children what to do, we can periodically try a different approach – we can engage them in the process. Young children crave – and NEED – independence. They want to assert themselves and be in control of themselves. Don’t we all want that? So one of the keys to having children cooperate is to give them some control, while still maintaining expectations.
Some tried and true strategies to encourage children’s cooperation:
Note: Expect to change up the game every so often – if it’s no longer working, it’s time to try something new.
This phase does not last forever. At the time they are going through it, it can certainly pluck our every nerve. While it is important for children to learn to follow instructions, we can help them navigate this struggle for independence by giving up some control, allowing them to gain some control. By finding creative ways to involve them, we promote their independence and they gain a sense of accomplishment. Making daily tasks into fun challenges can help motivate children and they often will rise to the occasion and cooperate on their own. Rather than resulting in a power struggle, it ends up being a “win-win.”
For more tips, check out the Cooperation tab on “In a Nutshell” and
download Take Five: Countdown to Cooperation.
There’s lots of talk about school readiness, but what does that really mean?
School readiness is more than basic knowledge of language and math, important as these are. Being ready for school means being ready in all areas: physical, cognitive, AND social-emotional. It also helps to come with a positive attitude toward learning.
There are many facets to helping a child prepare for success in school and summer is a good time to support your child’s readiness. These tips can help make the transition a smooth one.
Practical strategies to help kids prepare for daily school life:
Strategies to support emotional readiness:
You child will appreciate your attention during any of these activities. Your positive attitude about starting school will set the tone and help to make it something to look forward to!
We’ve all done this, we all do this. Habits are hard to change.
Imagine: You and your young child encounter another grownup you know. The grownup looks at the child with a smile and asks him, “How are you?” “What are you up to today?” Your child looks at the ground, then up at you, and you quickly answer “We’re on our way to meet a friend.”
What happened? The other grownup directly asked the child a question and the child didn’t get a chance to answer for himself. No big deal, right? Actually, children benefit tremendously when they have more time to process questions before answering. Some adults do, too.
As adults we often experience this rushed world. We have become accustomed to immediate responses, instant gratification. At the coffee shop, we expect our order lickity split. At work, or even socially, some people jump in immediately with ideas or suggestions. Others may have equally valuable ideas but may not articulate them as quickly. We all process information in our own individual way. It’s important to honor a variety of personalities with varying degrees of willingness to speak up in a group.
Let’s go back to the child. The value in giving the child 5-7 extra seconds to form their own response is immensely more powerful to that child’s individual development than saving 5 seconds and answering for them.
Why is wait time for a child important? What’s the big deal?
Research shows that when a teacher asks a question, the average wait time is one second or less. But when teachers purposely wait a minimum of five or more seconds after a question, children give higher quality and more substantive answers, their self-confidence increases, and they interact with one another to advance discussion. What’s more, children reluctant to raise their hands begin to participate.
So what can we adults do to intentionally give a child time to respond?
What if the child’s response isn’t true or isn’t right?
Now back to habits… It is tricky to hold back from answering for the child if you are constantly doing it. Perhaps it’s a cultural norm, perhaps it’s a pet peeve. If we can begin by being aware that we’re not giving children wait time, that’s a step!
Sure, there will be times that you ARE in a hurry and can’t wait a few extra seconds for a child to respond independently. That’s okay, forgive yourself. Barely anything about caring for children is realistic with ALWAYS or NEVER.
Here’s a challenge: try it out, ask a child a question and wait much longer than feels comfortable, maybe 7 seconds. What do you notice?
I’d love to hear your thoughts and observations!
About Our Guest Blogger
Lisa has been in the field of early childhood for about 12 years, working with children 8 years and younger in Richmond, VA, Washington, DC, and Boston, MA. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Decision Information Sciences from the University of Maryland, a master’s degree of Early Childhood Education (PreK-2) from Lesley University, and a Post Master’s Certificate in Early Childhood Practice, Policy, and Research from University of Massachusetts in Boston. She is aunt to four fantastic nephews and one incredible niece.
Want some fresh ideas for delicious, child-friendly meals? Check out our Pinterest Board here! You will find recipes for simple healthy snacks like Morning Glory Muffins and meals like Turkey Taco Lettuse Wraps.
We have all faced the challenge of having to wait with young children. There is a lot of waiting in the world: waiting for others to finish snack, waiting at the doctor’s office, checking out at the grocery store, in line for rides at the fair, going to the bathroom at any event. We all have to wait.
How can we make waiting a little more fun, or at least survive without major meltdowns? Here are some ideas that might help.
First and foremost, take a few minutes BEFORE the waiting actually happens to prepare children – preferably well in advance. Talk about the fact that there will be some dull moments ahead. Ask what feelings they might have when they have to wait. How will they manage those feelings? Have them brainstorm ideas – what will make the waiting more fun or at least bearable?
When the waiting begins, remind them about that conversation. Check out the feelings first: “Remember you said you might feel mad, and you were right! Do you remember that you said you would take 3 deep breaths when you felt mad? Let’s do that together.”
Have your child pick one of the activities they came up with or try one of the following:
“If you could have a super power, what would it be? Why? What would you do with your special power?”
“If your pet could talk, what would it say?”
“What would you do if you were invisible?”
“What do you love about being a kid?”
“What are your favorite smells?”
“What 5 things would you take with you if you were going to live on a desert island?”
By planning ahead for waiting times, we can prevent challenging behaviors – children will have fun, be creative, and they just might learn something, too!